Add Ebiquity to the growing list of companies looking to exploit the fact that TV measurement in the U.S. is no longer dominated by one company.
The media management firm sees TV measurement (or the lack thereof) stateside as a way into a market that’s proven tough to crack so far. Granted, it was always going to be a tall order given the thing the business specializes in — media audits — aren’t as widely adopted in the U.S. as they are in Europe. But with Nielsen’s grip on TV ratings in the U.S. loosening in the wake of a boom in streaming, Ebiquity sees an opportunity to reassert itself there — essentially as an intermediary for buyers of advertising.
It’s not hard to see why: Nielsen’s struggles have brought into sharp focus how much legacy ratings’ models are stifling the media industry’s progress toward better forms of measurement. That’s frustrated marketers, many of whom are experimenting with all sorts of new ways to measure audiences better than Nielsen does. Ebiquity hopes to be one of those alternatives.
The pitch is straightforward enough: instead of just looking at cost and quality parameters of media, Ebiquity’s solution looks to track and measure cross-platform reach, attention, brand salience and creative efficacy — including TV. It does this by pulling in data from audience data companies Lumen, System1, Audience Project and TVision in the U.S.
Moreover, it has an Advanced TV solution. Similar to other services, the modular process is set squarely at trying to give advertisers a metric for incrementality. To do this, it measures campaigns that split new customers from those who would have already transacted with the brand even if they hadn’t seen the ad — an issue TV has wrestled for years.
“The changing dynamics of the U.S. TV market are supportive to our business,” said Nick Waters, CEO of Ebiquity. “As Nielsen fumbles and struggles in the U.S., there’s a vacuum opening up for players to enter.”
If successful and able to fill at least some of that space, Waters believes there’s an opportunity to sell other services to marketers, particularly those who are looking to revamp their approach to online measurement. In other words, the current furor over TV measurement becomes a hook to essentially up-sell marketers over time. That’s made it all the easier after the acquisition of MMI — a U.S-based media auditing firm — in March. The deal gave Ebiquity a team of 40 people across the country, serving major advertisers including GM, AT&T, Samsung and GEICO. Call it strategic opportunism.
“Currency and measurement are not mutually exclusive,” said Chris Kelly, CEO of analytics platform Upwave.
Indeed, there are numerous media metrics that have been tracked for years — views, on-target views, clicks, site visits, store visits and sales to name a few. In channels like search, clicks are the currency, as measured by Google. Across digital media, views are the currency, as measured by ad server impressions. In TV, views have for decades been the currency, as measured by Nielsen GRPs.
“Why are we assuming the metric chosen to be the currency never changes?” questioned Kelly. ”Some advertisers already want to transact against on-target views, or clicks, or sales, etc. So, in the future, they’ll clearly want to experiment with different currencies up and down the funnel.”
It speaks to the broader opportunity Ebiquity sees globally as a media performance and management company at a point where the world of media is in a seemingly perpetual state of upheaval. There’s a steady decline in the effectiveness of advertising as more dollars are poured into areas of the media mix that are, in many ways, unaccountable and wasted. That’s spurred senior marketers to reorganize their teams and find partners that actually change this dynamic and improve their marketing outcomes.
In 2020, Ebiquity made a series of moves, from acquisitions to a corporate-wide restructure, to capitalize on this opportunity. It’s still a work in progress, but the signs are promising, according to Waters. As a whole, the business is wired less around selling point solutions to marketers, and more about revenue development with them over a five-year horizon — gradually trading them up to various solutions. Of the more than 70 big advertisers it works with, there are 28 who are on that trajectory. The benefit of those deals came through last year when the company’s revenue grew 13% from the previous year. Global expansion was the other growth factor. Asia Pacific was its fastest-growing region at 23%, with the U.S. in second place at 15%.
It hasn’t all been upside. Operating efficiencies continue to be a struggle for Ebiquity. While certain aspects of those operations are partially automated, there’s still a lot of manual work that goes into standing them up, said Waters. It’s the main strategic reason behind Ebiquity’s acquisition of MediaPath Network earlier this year. It essentially does everything Ebiquity does in agency selection services, value tracking of media and the benchmarking of ad prices, but done via a highly automated technology platform.
“We’ve addressed deficiencies in the market around digital [for our clients] now looking to do the same for broadcast,” said Waters. “A partner like ourselves can help marketers really understand the value they’re getting in the marketplace. To do so, however, we have to do things differently, especially given the traditional approach to measuring TV has its shortcomings when it comes to the streaming world.”
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